A doctor who examined the charred remains of 35 people massacred by the junta in Kayah State’s Hpruso Township on December 24 said that forensic evidence found that the deceased were civilians who were tortured before being burned, contradicting the claim by the military regime that those killed were members of People’s Defense Forces.
Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) and the ethnic Karenni State Consultative Council held a virtual joint press conference on Monday regarding the Christmas Eve massacre near Moso Village, Hpruso Township to publicize their findings in their ongoing investigations into the killings. Along with forensic results, witness accounts and statements from relatives of the dead were also shared during the briefing.
“This is a massacre like I have never seen before in my life,” said the doctor, a local Karenni health officer, citing the charred remains of the victims who had been tied up, stabbed in the chest and hit hard on their heads. The doctor noted that the skulls of the victims had been broken or damaged.
The doctor urged “everyone to help in seeking justice for those brutally killed, so that further incidents can be prevented.”
The bodies were examined by the doctor after being retrieved on December 27 by members of the Karenni State Police, Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and Karenni Army, all groups resisting the Myanmar military.
“We were unable to retrieve the bodies on the day of the massacre as Light Infantry Battalion 531, which is stationed near the incident site, fired artillery at us. The junta troops also fired on us when we attempted to retrieve the charred remains of the bodies on the next two days,” said a KNDF member.
Karenni State Police cited crime records and witness reports stating that there was no fighting going on when the civilians were captured by the troops from Light Infantry Battalion 531 and soldiers under Light Infantry Division 66 (LID 66), based in Pyay Township, Bago Region. The Irrawaddy has learned that LID 66 is led by Colonel Kyaw Lin Tun and that its tactical commander is Lieutenant Colonel Kyaw Swa Tun.
Citing autopsy results, doctors were able to identify 26 men and five women, including a girl around the age of 12 and two young men around the age of 16 or 17, among the victims. They included two Save the Children staff members who were providing international humanitarian assistance.
The remains of some victims were unable to be retrieved fully because the bodies had been totally burned.
DNA tests are being performed on the bodies to identify the deceased so they can be returned to their families, said U Bo Bo, the deputy chief of the Karenni State Police.
The doctors also found a 5.56mm bullet shell at the site where four Karenni Border Guard Force members were shot and killed, added U Bo Bo. The Border Guard members had attempted to negotiate the release of the 35 civilians as soon as they heard that they were being held by junta forces.
U Bo Bo said that the Karenni State Police had received reports of 42 missing people – forty men and two women – after they had asked the public to notify them of any missing family members or friends in their communities following the massacre.
The deputy police chief said that because of those missing people, the death toll from the Hpruso massacre may rise to 49.
U Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s Minister for Human Rights, said that they will share the findings of the investigation with diplomats and the United Nations (UN) so that action can be taken against the junta for their atrocities.
“People are dying every day. It is not enough just to issue statements. We will try to raise such incidents, hold further investigations and take effective action against the perpetrators,” said the minister.
He added that the NUG will work together with the UN Human Rights Council and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to get justice for the victims. The minister added that they will seek justice via international judicial mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court or in the court of a country where universal jurisdiction is practiced.
“We will also raise the massacre at the upcoming meeting of the UN Security Council,” said U Aung Myo Min.
The UN Security Council has called for an immediate end to hostilities in Hpruso Township and urged member states of the Security Council to condemn the massacre.
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